Animal diversity is so much more than dogs and cats and humans. It is a lot more than what is in the zoo or even on The Discovery Channel. Movies only show the big, impressive ones like man-eating tigers and man-eating sharks. This is too bad, because movie monsters don't come close to the things that are real.
It took hundreds of millions of years to get here, and "here" is a very complex place. There aren't just plenty more fish in the sea; there are thousands of kinds of fish in the sea. That's just fish. We are just beginning to understand how this happened and what is out there. Scientists say there are animals we haven't even found yet. (Okay, we are pretty sure we have found all the big ones.) And, as you read this, species are disappearing.
This kingdom is ours. We are animals. We also eat animals, live and work with animals, and we are part of the web of life that includes all animals. We depend on other animals to handle their end of the bargain when it comes to things like recycling nutrients and keeping ecosystems working.
It's time to meet the neighbors. First we'll take a quick look at the history of animals on earth and get into what an animal really is. Then we'll explore our family tree.